Why Liberty – A Review by Ajibola Adigun


Liberty, like nationalism, is everyman’s excuse and reason; the tyrant’s as well as the patriot’s. When the query of why liberty was answered in twelve essays by eleven people in a 141 page book, it seems like a belated effort in publishing a libertarian handbook for dummies. Unlike all handbooks for dummies though, the essays presented such serious topics like, ‘The Political Principle of Liberty,’ ‘The Tangled Dynamics of State Interventionism’ and ‘The History and Structure of Libertarian Thought’ in as simple terms as a freshman can understand while answering the call of nature. So why liberty? And why should Africans be interested in a this  publication?


One of the contributors is Nigerian which makes the book worth reading for Africans. He, Olumayowa Okediran, argues in his essay that Africa's modernization and development should not necessarily be seen as its Westernization. His argument for freer African trade draws from African examples. So why should Africa not be modern?


Why not’  was how the other essayists answered the probe. They took the liberty to explore various subjects from varied lenses. One of the essayists, John Stossel , did not pretend to know as much as an attorney knows about law or about the universality of liberty as he potrayed in his interview of another essayist, Alexander McCobin. So he argues for why there ought not to be law.


Alexander McCobin’s response in the Fox interview was as succinct as his essay: liberty is a universal concept. He throws behind himself and his arguments philosophical justifications from Jeremy Bentham’s principle of utility; Robert Nozick’s principle of autonomy; Locke’s natural rights; Randian rational pursuit of happiness, and some more, like the philosophy teacher that he is. He makes abstract concepts real with his diverse, simple presentation of them. He is humble enough to justify liberty by Fredrick Hayek’s teachings on the pretense of knowledge.


After so much has been written and bantered about the structure and justifications of liberty in history (libertarianism  as abolitionism), in politics (libertarianism as radical centrism) and some philosophy, the reader gets a breather with the discussion of Art as sine qua non to liberty. Sarah Skwire, the author of Writing with a Thesis’s argument is that not only is freedom essential for Art, Art in fact paves way for freedom. If Ovid’s exile from Rome for his poem is too far away in classical history, think the imprisonment of Pussy Riot in Russia or times in history where pens and poems have been taken to gun fights. The conditions of (Greek?) art and (Chinese) artists show the health of a nation.


While music may be food to the soul, we all still must have a healthy body for it. But the state makes Sloane Frost sick with its immiserating interventions in health care. And she did not mention the Affordable Care Act, which readily comes to mind, in her essay. She provides examples of the ‘incoherent and irrational outcomes’ that are the result of state interventions in health care decisions. Her illustration of college students as the victims of these interventions is prescient; college students being among the first victims of Obama Care.


Reading Why Liberty, one is forced, if just for one’s vanity to claim that they too are libertarian, especially with the arguments of the editor that being libertarian is being civil. One is also forced to ponder, why no?

Edited by Tom G. Palmer, Jameson Books, Inc., 141 pages